Democrats won both runoff elections in Georgia to regain control of the US Senate, according to projections from Panorama Hispano News and Decision Desk HQ.
Decision Desk HQ projected at 11:13 p.m. on Tuesday that Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed to fill a vacancy in late 2019, lost to the Democrat Raphael Warnock.
And it projected at 2:14 a.m. on Wednesday that first-term Republican Sen. David Perdue was defeated by the Democrat Jon Ossoff.
Democrats will now control the US Senate for the first time since 2015. And with President-elect Joe Biden set to take office on January 20, Democrats will have unified control of government — holding the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives — for the first time since 2011.
Both Democratic candidates are also set to make history. Warnock will become Georgia's first Black senator and the first Democratic Black senator from the South. And Ossoff, 33, will be the first millennial in the US Senate and the first Jewish senator to represent Georgia.
Two US Senate runoffs took place in the formerly safe-Republican Georgia, which in November voted for a Democratic presidential nominee, Biden, for the first time since 1992.
In Georgia, if no candidate earns at least half the overall vote in a given election, the race goes to a runoff between the top two vote-getters. To ensure a candidate earns over 50% of the vote, no third-party or write-in candidates are permitted in runoff elections.
Republican Sen. David Perdue, a former business executive first elected in 2014, was running for a second term against the Democrat Jon Ossoff. Ossoff is a 33-year-old CEO of an investigative-documentary filmmaking company and a former US House staffer who was the Democratic nominee for the June 2017 special election for Georgia's 6th Congressional District.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a wealthy Atlanta businesswoman and owner of the WNBA team the Atlanta Dream, was appointed in late 2019 to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired before the end of his term because of health concerns.
In November, Loeffler competed in a special jungle election with 20 other candidates to serve out the rest of Isakson's term, which was set to expire in 2022.
Loeffler and the Democrat Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, emerged from the jungle election as the top two vote-getters.
Warnock led with 32% of the vote compared with 26% for Loeffler and 20% for GOP Rep. Doug Collins, the third-highest vote-getter.
The worsening COVID-19 pandemic, including the high-stakes effort to get a coronavirus relief bill passed through Congress and the failed push for $2,000 stimulus checks, helped shape the dynamics of the runoff races.
Raphael Warnock, a Baptist preacher from the historic church of Martin Luther King Jr., beat Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler to become the first Black senator in the history of the deep South state.
Jon Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker who at 33 would becomes the Senate's youngest member.
The results were a repudiation Donald Trump in a state his Republicans have controlled for decades.
The outgoing president campaigned for both Republicans, while at the same time leveling false accusations that his own loss in the November presidential election was tainted by fraud, and attacking Republican officials in the state. Some Republicans said that discouraged his supporters from voting.
Winning both contests gives Democrats control of the Senate, creating a 50-50 split and giving Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote once she and Biden take office on Jan. 20. The party already has a narrow majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The campaign's final days were overshadowed by Trump's attacks on his own election defeat in the state, including a recording of a phone call in which he hectored Republican Georgia officials to "find" enough votes make him the winner.
ON TRUMP'S SHOULDERS
Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and a top election official in the state, told CNN that if Democrats won, the losses would "fall squarely on the shoulders of President Trump and his actions since Nov. 3."
The election also signaled a shift in the politics of Georgia and the wider deep South. Black voters, the most reliable Democratic supporters in the region, turned out in numbers unprecedented for a run-off vote.
In a video message, Warnock, whose Ebenezer Baptist Church is legendary in Georgia because of its role in the civil rights movement under King, recalled his humble upbringing as one of 12 children of a woman who worked in cotton fields.
"Because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else's cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator," he said.
During the campaign, Republicans had painted Ossoff and Warnock as radicals who would pursue a hard-left agenda. But that message failed to resonate with many white suburbanites who have increasingly abandoned the Republican party under Trump.
Trump's flailing efforts to overturn his own defeat move to Congress later on Wednesday, when Vice President Mike Pence is due to preside over the counting of electoral votes to certify Biden's victory.
Trump has called on Pence to throw out the results in states he narrowly lost, although Pence has no authority to do so. Some Republican lawmakers have said they will try to reject some state tallies, a move that stands no chance of success but which could force debate and drag out the certification process.
Trump's supporters plan to rally in the streets of Washington, with the city bracing for potential violence. Police banned the leader of a far-right group from the city and made several arrests as protests ramped up on Tuesday. Trump is due to address the crowd at 11 a.m. (1600 GMT)
Both Republican senators, following the lead of Trump who has never conceded his own loss, predicted they would ultimately win and insisted they would fight on: "We have a path to victory and we're staying on it," Loeffler told supporters in Atlanta.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Eric Beech, David Morgan, Jason Lange and Andy Sullivan; Writing by John Whitesides and Andy Sullivan; Editing by Soyoung Kim)